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WHAT’S HE SMOKING? Healthcare Reform Hinges on Obama Thinking Like a Non-Smoker

Posted by ajspage on June 25, 2009

President Obama demonstrates the neat little box around him that keeps this baby safe from third-hand smoke

President Obama demonstrates the imaginary box around him that smokers believe keeps this baby safe from third-hand smoke

I watched the televised White House infomercial on healthcare reform last night, and it occurred to me that the President is thinking like a smoker. Whether he’s quit the habit or not, we won’t get real reform until he starts thinking like a non-smoker.

You see, he wants reform that provides high quality care for all Americans, saves money and saves … money. But … BUTT… only if he doesn’t have to change anything for people who are happy with their current employer-provided insurance, i.e., mostly people who have never truly needed their coverage. (And people who work for Google. But let’s face it, we can’t all work for Google.)

This whole situation is reminiscent of restrictions on smoking, in the beginning. Smokers had a RIGHT, goddammit. So the rulemakers said, “If you like what you’re doing, no one is going to make you change, you go right on smoking where you are. We’ll just make these special non-smoking sections for everyone else so they can breathe.” Which of course didn’t work very well because only smokers think the smoke stays in a nice little box around them and doesn’t end up in everyone else’s hair, clothing and lungs.

Smoking rates (first-hand and second-hand) — and attendant cancer rates — didn’t really drop off until rulemakers finally got tough and made rules that guaranteed clean air in public spaces for everyone. Smokers can always take it somewhere else, but everyone else — especially workers, children, and people trying to kick the habit — everyone else suffers the consequences if they don’t.

Herein lies a core problem with the President’s healthcare reform proposal. Predicating reform on the requirement that those who don’t want anything to change must be allowed keep their employeer-sponsored insurance plans just as they are means we can’t clear the air, so to speak (or shovel out the barn, for a more apt analogy).

Because if we keep the existing insurance companies, we keep the $350 billion in wasted healthcare administration costs, and the billions more in profits they extract with that “wasted” paperwork. EVERYONE’S healthcare is that much more expensive. If a patient decides to spend his own money and have nothing to do with insurance companies, the extraordinary costs they foist on the system will still end up in that patient’s medical bills (and the crazymaking medical billing paperwork will still end up flooding his home and dominating his time when he is sick).

That patient can’t really opt for an insurance-free zone, where he doesn’t have to pay the odious insurance-waste-tax, because that waste will remain so long as private insurers remain.

In the forum tonight, President Obama talked about involving all the players: doctors, patients, insurance companies… But doctors and patients are necessary parts of the healthcare system, insurance companies are not, and they should not be afforded the same voice in reform because of their role in bringing our system to its knees.

People have to ask themselves: if your loved one needs expensive, life-saving medical care, and you are given a choice, would you, a) choose to err on the side of giving it to them, even if no one is 100% sure it will be worth it in the end, or b) choose to instead give the money to an insurance company to hire a bunch of paper pushers to screw a whole lot of people just like you for their profits?

Let me say it again: At least $350 billion wasted every year because of private insurance bureaucracy. What part of saving AT LEAST a trillion dollars in three years without spending a cent less on care don’t we understand?

Single-payer is working all over the world. In democracies. In democracies that have far better healthcare access and outcomes than we have. Even though, in most cases, they smoke more. Imagine that.

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